On the fence?

At the February Campaign meeting we were able to have two speakers in almost a head to head debate. Jerry Alderson from CAST.IRON, the group campaigning to reopen the St Ives railway line, and Graham Hughes of the County Council who wish to use this rail corridor as part of the ‘Cambridge Guided Bus’ scheme, both presented their plans.

As a cycling campaign we find it hard to be united over either of these proposals, but this debate enabled us to explore some of the problems of both schemes especially as they relate to cyclists.

Red light for cyclists to go under Hills Road bridge along with the guided buses.
Image as described adjacent

Firstly, the Cambridgeshire Guided Bus. This should provide a three to four metre wide path for cyclists, pedestrians, and on the northern section, horses, on the line of the maintenance path. This path would run from St Ives as far as Milton Road going underneath both the Histon bypass and the A14. It would also run from just south of the station to the Trumpington Park and Ride site with a branch to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. The Campaign was concerned that the proposal to allow cyclists to use a new arch under Hills Road bridge near the station appears to have been dropped. There is also continuing concern over the effect on cyclists of larger numbers of buses on streets within the city. There is no proposal to carry pedal cycles on these buses, although ‘secure’ parking for bicycles will be provided at stops. As these proposals are for a Guided system they are being submitted to the government by the ‘Transport and Works Act’ (TWA). A list of the items that will be included in our objections to this scheme is given later in this article.

Secondly, CAST.IRON’s proposals for the ‘St Ives’ line. They propose a three stage restoration of train services. Initially they are proposing a single line shuttle service from Swavesey to Cambridge Regional College. This train would have a van for bicycles, and they believe there would be space for a cycleway, although it is not part of their costed plans. They hope later to have a route from St Ives to an interchange at the Science Park with the possibility of some through running to Cambridge Station. As this would need some sections of twin track, it is uncertain how a cycle route would be possible within existing boundaries. Finally they have aspirations to link in with the East Coast Main Line at Huntingdon.

Members present were concerned that, at all stages and with the proposed rolling stock, such services would not be able to cater for large numbers of cyclists on board without excessive delays at stops. We were also concerned at the prospect of only a few trains running through as far as Cambridge Station. Many members welcomed the initiative shown by this group, but concerns were raised about the achievability in the current climate. We were also concerned by the suggestion that for financial reasons trains would only run during normal hours, being replaced by a bus in the evening and at weekends.

There was not time to have a debate and to propose a motion following this discussion but at the March meeting the following motions were proposed:

‘Cambridge Cycling Campaign supports the principle of improved public transport and will not object to the principle of the County Council’s proposals for guided buses on the Huntingdon-Cambridge-Trumpington corridor. The Campaign is, however, concerned to ensure that the proposals achieve the maximum benefits for cyclists and do not make conditions worse for cyclists. The Campaign will set up a subgroup to consider the proposals in detail. The Campaign will formally object to aspects of the scheme which do not take sufficient account of the needs of cyclists, and will ask to make representations to the public inquiry on those aspects.’

‘Cambridge Cycling Campaign supports the principle of improved public transport and will not object to the principle of the CAST.IRON proposals for a rail service on the Huntingdon-Cambridge corridor should a TWA (Transport & Works Act) application be submitted. The Campaign will work to ensure that the proposals would achieve the maximum benefits for cyclists and would not make conditions worse for cyclists’

Both these motions were passed with overwhelming majorities, but both had both opposers and abstainers.

Since this meeting we’ve had an opportunity to look at some of the mountain of documentation relating to the TWA application and we’ve not long to submit our objections.

What will we be objecting to in the Cambridgeshire Guided Bus TWA application?

  • Hills Road Bridge: the lack of a cycle route alongside the bus route on the new route under Hills Road. National Planning Guidance (PPG13), economics (time saved), safety, and some wording in the TWA schedule all suggest a route for cyclists should be provided.
  • Details at ‘road crossings’ where routes for cyclists are obscure and cyclists may be forced to cross against a green light.
  • Unsympathetic design for cyclists, including deviations and switching of sides of the ‘maintenance’ path.
  • Difficulties and dangers caused at bridleway/cycle path crossings by lack of a break in the guideway.
  • The lack of a tarmac or similar surface on the maintenance track.

Changes on ordinary roads within Cambridge that may form part of the routes used by these buses do not form part of the TWA application. We will be monitoring these proposed changes, and where these disadvantage cyclists we will object via the more normal channels. By the time you read this we will almost certainly have submitted our letter to the TWA Office, but this will only be the start of this campaign. Later, assuming there is a public inquiry, we will have to produce a ‘Statement of Case’ and appear at the inquiry to justify our objections.

Jim Chisholm